However Phil Jackson goes out as president of the New York Knicks, whether he presides over yet another half-decade of misery in New York or brings the team to its first championship in over four decades, he’s going to go out with candor. He always has.
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Jackson, according to longtime confidante Charley Rosen, identified forward/center Greg Monroe as a perfect fit for both his team’s rebuilding schemes and offensive structure early in the 2014-15 season. Monroe, who basically signed off on leaving Detroit during the 2014 offseason, was rumored to have mutual interest, but despite an early free agent meeting between the two camps he spurned New York for an emerging Milwaukee Bucks team. Smaller market, but more wins, just as many touches, and just as much money.
Rather than trying to slough off the inability to secure Greg Monroe with a batch of sour grapes or by lying through his teeth about his team’s disinterest in the forward, as many general managers would do on record, Jackson told it like it was while meeting with the media on Monday.
“No, Greg went to the right spot,’’ Jackson said. “That’s the right place for him. He was the first stop on the way. We set it up that way. We had talked to him the longest.’’
Jackson isn’t wrong, and Monroe wasn’t wrong to choose Milwaukee. After five seasons with five different coaches in Detroit, he’s ready to take to the postseason for the first time. Even in the terrible East, and even with a healthy season from Carmelo Anthony and various veteran helpers being added via free agency, the Knicks would still have a tough go of making it out of the Eastern cellar and into the postseason during 2015-16.
Jackson rebounded well by taking in versatile big man Robin Lopez, a solid hybrid center that will be able to mix expertise in playing to the tenets of Jackson’s beloved triangle offense while still keeping up with the way the modern game is played. Big man Kyle O’Quinn is a talented prospect that showed flashes in Orlando, and while Arron Afflalo (too old) and Derrick Williams (too daffy) might be stretches, the Knicks didn’t exactly break the piggy bank (two years and $16 million for Afflalo, O’Quinn for four years at $16 million) to sign anyone.
(In terms of market value, Williams was probably a reach. Expected to be fighting for a minimum contract, he scored two years and $10 million for Jackson. That won’t cripple any payroll or salary cap plans this year or next, but it’s still a lot of money compared to what he was probably being offered elsewhere. We’ll see if the triangle can do something for him, because he does have skills.)
The Knicks president, entering his second full season with the team, also stated the obvious when it came to why, exactly, his similarly-sized monetary offers seemed lessened when compared to evenly-matched offers from playoff teams:
"We need to win, be a competitive team.
"I think we showed agents and players around the league a serious nature of what we're trying to accomplish. People who know basketball will recognize that, and we'll have people who want to come here."
The Los Angeles Lakers have struck out in securing free agents to play alongside Kobe Bryant for three straight summers, and though you may have an opinion as to Bryant’s role in that, the Lakers’ competitive prospects in the West were a consideration for potential signees. In his first chance to act as a draw, Carmelo Anthony failed to encourage signees to spurn the bright lights of Manhattan for Milwaukee.
Jackson wasn’t consulted in any free agent moves, Jackson relayed, and the Knick president isn’t concerned that Carmelo will take issue with his new teammates (including 19-year old first round draft pick Kristaps Porzingis) because “it’s a team game.”
If anything, that was Jackson at his least transparent. What he probably should have said was, “he got his money, he can deal.”
We don’t know how these Knicks will look in a few years, but it’s good to have Phil Jackson around.
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